Beginners’ yoga, or, yoga for people who think they’re not bendy enough to do yoga:
In this class I will offer simple, yet still challenging routines with a slightly slower pace, guiding you into the postures and giving you time to find the best position for your body. The movements will build up your strength and flexibility over time. We will use props to help, and sequences will avoid too much up-and-down or use of the wrists; asana will be modified as necessary, but you can still access all the benefits of a yoga practice.
Music will be played at these classes and there will be a focus on the breath as we learn the art of mindful movement. At the end of the class there will be savasana, which might be a silent relaxation or a guided body scan.
Wear something comfortable that you can move in, and that won’t dig into you. You’ll be bending and stretching, so exercise leggings or tracksuit bottoms are perfect, and a top that won’t fall down over your head if you bend over. It’s low-impact, so a running bra isn’t needed- a soft one that contains but doesn’t constrain is ideal.
These dynamic classes are for people looking for the next stage of their yoga journey, or those who want to build up their fitness and/or flexibility.
The routines will vary from week to week and will build up to a peak pose, offering a challenging sequence designed to build up strength and flexibility, but still with the focus on the breath that allows the element of moving meditation. The class will end in savasana, which may be a silent relaxation or a guided body scan. Music will be played in these classes.
Ashtanga Primary Series:
The classic moving meditation, Ashtanga routines follow the breath. The sequence is always the same, although in an hour’s class we won’t be able to do all the postures of the primary series so there can be some variations within the system. Ashtanga Primary Series is a challenging routine which will build up both strength and flexibility, and the breath control can also help with performance and recovery in other sports. Ashtanga yoga is traditionally practised without music.
Yin and Restorative Yoga:
Yin is the counter to the yang of the strong, dynamic practices outlined above. In a yin class, you will typically hold a pose for between 2 and 5 minutes. Often props will be used to make this more restorative, but it is a different way of working which offers different benefits. While a yang practice works the muscles and generates heat, a yin practice will work on the ligaments, bones, and joints. These more plastic tissues respond well to a gentle pressure applied for longer, rather than the rhythmic, repetitive movements which benefit the elastic tissues of the muscles. (More information on the science and practice of yin yoga can be found here, and there’s a useful article on the difference between yin and restorative here.)
When you come to a yin or restorative class, it’s a good idea to wear layers of clothes so that you won’t get cold, and bring with you at least one blanket or towel to help with some of the poses, a blanket to snuggle with, and a few pillows (or a bolster if you have one).
My yin and restorative classes offer a progression from a more active practice to begin with, to a more restorative one, with postures that can be adapted and supported with props to suit your mood. Music accompanies the class, and I will also talk a little about the postures, about yoga philosophy, sometimes sharing a poem or a piece of prose. The talking is important for many people because without the dynamic movement of a yang class, it’s easy for the mind to wander in the silence, and sometimes this isn’t helpful for either the practice, or your mental wellbeing, so I offer a mixture of information and a form of guided thought.
At the end of the hour, I will offer the opportunity to stay for a further 30 minutes in order to experience a Yoga Nidra. This is a completely optional offering, and those who prefer not to take it up may leave quietly after savasana.
Yoga Nidra is ‘yogic sleep’, and it is a form of deep rest and relaxation, with elements of guided meditation. The aim is to experience the liminal place between sleeping and waking, although it’s not possible to ‘fail’ at yoga nidra, so if you fall asleep completely, or can’t get ‘into’ it, that’s ok too. It’s an exploration of different states of consciousness, a practice during which we might find pure consciousness, where the body is deeply relaxed and the mind is awake and aware, but deeply still.
Yoga Nidra can allow the brain to fall into a state of delta brainwaves, which is the state in which healing and regeneration happen. We may also find the alpha/theta brainwave boundary, which combines rational cognition and emotional/dreaming cognition, and this can help with creativity and problem solving.
It can also offer a superb form of stress relief, and all these things together can produce some wonderful benefits including a reversal of the stress response in the brain, increased creativity, problem solving, and improved memory function.